One of the first things my wife and I noticed when we arrived in Dublin was that being American (or presumably from anywhere else) was kind of a mixed bag of good and bad.
On the one hand, as long as we sound like Americans we’ll never truly be “from here”. But on the other hand, we get excused from certain things. We don’t have to drink tea if we don’t want to, and we aren’t expected to keep up at the pub like we would if we were Irish. Everyone knows Americans are lightweights.
But, we also reserve the right to “go all American on their asses” when we need to, and display the brash, loud, bull in a China shop insensitivity and bluntness that Americans are known for around the world. I’d feel bad about employing that tactic if it weren’t so effective, and often the only means of getting things done efficiently in Ireland. That said, if I learned to be more Irish about these things and spoke the cultural language, I’d might have to “go American” less often. And, honestly, the longer I’m here and learn more of the local language, I am also getting better at reading the social situation.
At an Irish wake (our first) a few days ago, a very kind woman asked me no less than six times if I wanted tea. She and I realized later what was going on, and we had a good laugh. She’d forgotten that when Americans say “no” to something, they mean, “no”. Not so, the Irish.
The Irish expect to be asked multiple times. It’s rude not to keep asking. So she’d assumed that I was being kind and waiting for the third or fourth ask before I finally accepted. Then she caught my accent and realized that I really did not want tea. When my host realized what was going on, I was no longer rude for not accepting, and she was no longer rude for not leaving me alone. But that level of acceptance only works when both parties speak the same social language, or least know enough vocabulary to get along.
I’m not sure why the Irish do this. But the “why” will come later; and, frankly, it almost doesn’t matter. What’s more important is that I learn to read these things, and pick up on the social context clues. And, honestly, I’m pretty thick about these things. But, like any muscle, I seem to be getting better at it the more I practice.
That’s yet another reason to travel, live abroad, and savor the experience of being from elsewhere.
Things to look forward to in upcoming posts:
Finding the “Right” City For You